Monday, December 20, 2010

Making a list and checking it twice?

Readers and writers on your list? How about some recommendations of gizmos, gadgets, and gifts galore from a professional writer?

Books have long been the perfect holiday gift. You can buy physical books, audio books (CD, DVD, and cassette tapes) and digital books. So before you shop, profile your reader. If he or she spends a lot of time commuting, check their car to see if they have a cassette player or CD player. If their laptop is always nearby, consider Amazon Kindle books that can be downloaded and read on a PC, Mac, iPad, Blackberry or Android phone. And if you select the wrong book, the recipient can exchange it for a different book or a gift card.

Maybe your budget includes the hardware on which to read a book. If you are buying for someone who will just read, then the comparison list at might help you make a good decision based on the unit’s memory, screen size, resolution, cost and whether or not the recipient reads regular books (get black and white) or graphic novels (get color). Where books are read can make a difference, too. Black and white units use eInk which is great in sunlight but can’t be seen in dimly lit areas. Color units have LCD screens with back-lighting which are useless in sunlight but great in dark areas. Book availability is also important. Just because a company says it has thousands of books doesn’t mean a thing—they might not be the books your user would want to download. Last but not least, some digital readers, like the low-end of the Sony line need the user to download the book to a PC or Mac first and then move it over using a USB cable or thumb drive.

Bargain-priced readers like the Aluratek Libre, Kobo eReader, Amazon Kindle and Sharper Image Literati all start around $100 or just over. However, if your reader also falls into the category of web-surfer, artist, photographer, Facebook fan, or chat room aficionado then a bigger piggy bank is going to be needed. There are tablets like the full-size iPad from Apple, which can run over $800 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi/3G version. Handhelds like the Huawei, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Nook Color (with Android apps) are mini-meccas of reading wonder that cost between $250 and $300. While the Lenovo tablet, en Tourage eDGe and Dell Streak, all in the area of $500, are mini laptops with digital reading capability.

For writers on your list, a smart pen might be the way to go. These amazing bits of technology turn your handwritten notes into editable text on your computer. Some smart pens require smart paper that can be purchased as notebooks and/or printed out on your computer. The Pulse Smartpen remembers every movement you make and every sound it hears. The Echo translates your notes from one language to the next as fast as you can scribble. Irisnotes and LogiPen both work on any kind of paper but require special ink refills to make the magic happen. The latter of the two also works on your tablet screen. All smart pens connect to your computer either by USB or wirelessly to transcribe your notes and messages. They start around $50 for the Dane-Elec Zpen or the HP Digital Pen with eraser and can run as high as $250 for the 8GB Echo Smartpen Pro-Pack. Just remember, the word “smart” is a generic word. There are also smart pens with no digital correlation whatsoever; so make sure the smart pen you purchase is as smart as you think it is.

Give someone the gift of knowledge, like a $22 a month subscription to Safari Books Online . Safari has over 10,000 books and videos for technology, creative and business professional. For the more budget-oriented gift-giver, Google has a super-easy, fill-in-the-blank Techie Care Package to email friends and parents. Show them how to change their desktop background, track an airline flight or make a blog. Attach as many of Google’s 40 free computer training videos as you like and voila, you have helped to educate the world…for FREE!

This holiday season of 2010 is a digital wonderland of gizmos and gadgets for everyone from novice to hi-tech adventurers and shopping for the perfect techno-gift can be almost as much fun as receiving it! Good luck and enjoy!

Guest blogger and Southern Californian, Pamela Coca of Write-On Communications says she has been writing professionally since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Penned items include magazine articles, news editorials, tech manuals, web content, medical curriculum, and anything else that allows ink to be placed on paper. She believes that writers live to write as well as write to live. She is well-known in local circles for creating the award-winning Escoe Bliss Professional Resources website.

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